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June 14, 2021

Salinas Bids Assembly Adieu

– Simón Salinas’ six years representing District 28 in the state
Assembly have come to an end.
Hollister – Simón Salinas’ six years representing District 28 in the state Assembly have come to an end.

“This is my last day,” he told the Free Lance on Thursday. “We’ve got to shut down by five.”

Thursday also marked the end of Hollister native Robert Rivas’ first job out of college. Rivas, 26, has been one of Salinas’ field representatives for more than three years. In addition, Rivas was a legislative intern in Salinas’ office during his senior year at Sacramento State University.

Rivas said working for Salinas, who is being termed out of office, has been an educational experience.

“I’ve learned what it takes to be successful,” Rivas said. “I look at (Salinas’) life, the adversity he’s faced, the way he handles himself in public and the way he handles himself in private. He’s been a real role model.

“My time with him has been wonderful. He’s a tremendous guy. I can’t reiterate enough what a genuine person he is.”

Salinas’ district includes the cities of Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Gilroy, Salinas, Watsonville and others.

Salinas, 51, said he’s authored some 60 or 70 bills. Some of the legislation he’s proudest of includes improvements to farmworker housing, a requirement that buildings with unreinforced masonry carry a warning sign and a bill allowing dental hygienists to help underserved communities.

He also said he’s proud that as chair of the Assembly’s local government commission, he worked to make sure the state pays attention to local needs.

Although Salinas said he’s had a good six years in Sacramento, he also acknowledged, “Time is so limited. There’s a lot more work that could be done.”

Rivas said he’s particularly pleased with Salinas’ success in acquiring millions of dollars of state funds to improve safety on Highway 25. These improvements including widening the shoulders and installing a rumble strip to prevent passing. Since the project’s completion, crashes have fallen about 40 percent.

Longtime resident Kent Child said he’s spent nearly 20 years commuting from Hollister to Gavilan College, where he’s worked as a teacher, dean and now a member of the board of trustees. Child said the highway has become more dangerous as traffic increased during the 1980s and 1990s, but the rumble strip and wider shoulders have made a real difference.

“You used to be able to relax on the highway and watch the cattle graze and the farmers work,” he said. “Then it got to the point that you had to focus exclusively on defensive driving. And that’s still kind of true, but I feel much safer now.”

Child added that one of his son’s best friends was killed in an accident on Highway 25. Although he attributes most of the project’s success to City Councilman Brad Pike, Child said commuters owe “a huge debt of gratitude” to everyone who made the improvements possible.

Until earlier this year, political observers expected Salinas, a Democrat, to make a bid for Republican Jeff Denham’s seat on the state Senate. However, Salinas decided to return to Monterey County’s Board of Supervisors, saying he wanted to spend more time with his son and father, who was ill and has since died. Salinas said his decision was reinforced when he was told by senior Democrats in Sacramento that they didn’t want him to challenge Denham.

Salinas noted that when his four-year term on the Board of Supervisors ends, Denham’s seat will be open, and he said he’d consider running for state or national office in the future.

“You keep it open,” Salinas said. “Four years is a long time.”

Anthony Ha covers local government for the Free Lance. Reach him at (831) 637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected]

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